Mosaic / Reviews / June 14, 2014

Apps that analyze your data for your gain, not theirs


Facebook is both the ultimate time-waster and notorious for taking and selling user information. Mobile app Paper and browser app Five Labs take these two aspects of Facebook and puts them into a more appropriate and positive context.


For smartphone users, Paper is an official Facebook app that should really replace the default mobile Facebook. Confusing? That’s because both Paper and the default mobile Facebook do the exact same things, but Paper does everything better.

Like other official Facebook apps, such as Facebook Messenger or Page Manager, Paper was originally created for the purpose of doing a specific social media action. In this case, Paper mainly serves as a newsfeed.

Similar to mobile apps like LinkedIn Pulse (formerly known as “Pulse”), Flipboard or Circa, Paper starts users off by allowing them to choose different topics of interest such as news, entertainment, sports, etc. and then automatically aggregates stories from multiple sources.

Automatic newsfeed apps are easy to come by on all platforms and finding a “unique” one is near impossible. What makes Paper different is its Facebook integration and sleek design.

After logging in to Facebook and choosing topics of interest, users can “flip” through their personal Facebook news feed and aggregated interest feeds.

An interesting thing about Paper is the customization of your interest feeds based on individual users’ Facebook data. This customization isn’t heavily advertised and I didn’t notice it until my “Exposure” feed (for general art and photography) sent me an influx of posts specifically on photojournalism, war photography and politics: topics Facebook knows I’m very interested in.

This is creepy, right? Not in this context.

Paper is an app that puts the data hoarding and analysis to good use. In the context of news feed apps, analyzing users’ reading habits and interests isn’t controversial. In fact, it’s the norm, and Facebook does it the best.

The same way Google hoards data from users on the road to give the most accurate directions and travel estimations for Google Maps, Facebook analyzes reading habits to create newsfeeds made up completely of relevant and interesting articles.

One of the best parts of Paper is the promotion of sharing articles and stories that users feel are relevant. Unlike the default Facebook app, Paper’s article optimization makes it easier and faster to read the stories shared by friends.

The interface of Paper is also stunning. Facebook calls Paper’s layout “distraction-free,” and the app stays true to that label with its full-screen view of status updates (in the form of pages), mobile optimized articles and use of motion technology when viewing photos.

After downloading Paper, I deleted the default Facebook app and Facebook Messenger, as it combines both into one sleek package.

Five Labs

Going back to the idea of analyzing personal Facebook data for the purpose of entertainment, a recent browser app called “Five Labs” went viral and allowed people to analyze their personalities from their Facebook posts.

Think of the app as an accurate personality test. As it takes one button click, Five Labs is easier than the Myers-Briggs test and any quiz you can take on Buzzfeed. Though not as thorough as the Myers-Briggs or as amusing as Buzzfeed, the Five Labs personality analyzer shows you the general “shape” of your personality, based on “Openness,” “Extraversion,” “Agreeableness,” “Conscientiousness” and “Neuroticism.”

Five Labs based my personality statistics on 2,149 words from my posts, but the number varies depending on the individual. After testing it out on multiple friends, I found the analysis to be scarily accurate.

Since the app is connected to Facebook, it can analyze the data of your friends and show which of them are most similar to you.


I should backtrack and say that I’m against Facebook’s policy of selling user information. It makes it too easy for companies to manipulate their ads and creepily find ways to better sell things to people, and it belittles the use of social media as a way of communicating with others.

In fewer words, selling personal information is Facebook selling out.

I am not against, however, the analysis of user information to make user experience more integrated and relevant. Like the Google Maps example mentioned above, I believe the analysis of user data is innovative and useful.

Context is important. More strides should be made to better the user experience, not exploit user information. With apps like Paper or Five Labs, it seems as if Facebook is going in the right direction.

Casey Mendoza
Casey Mendoza is a senior majoring in political science and double minoring in philosophy and Chinese. This is her fourth year working at The Knox Student, previously as a photographer and photo editor. Casey is the recipient of two awards from the Illinois College Press Association for photo essays. During the summer of 2014, Casey also worked as a photography intern for the Galesburg Register-Mail, covering local community events and working alongside award-winning reporters and photojournalists. During the winter and spring of 2015, Casey studied journalism and new media in Washington DC, learning more about the world's political arena, networking and gaining a greater understanding of the field. There, she worked as a Production Assistant at a documentary film company, The Biscuit Factory. During the summer of 2015, Casey will help produce a documentary on airline reservation technology for the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC).

Tags:  apps articles circa exposure facebook five labs flipboard google maps linkdin news news feed newsfeed paper procrastinaton

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